Coronavirus: Egypt shuts hospitals and isolates villages to slow outbreak

A Cairo facility was closed for sterilisation late Saturday after two Covid-19 cases were confirmed.

epa08328759 Egyptians are jogging near the compound of the military academy in Cairo, Egypt, 28 March 2020. Egyptian authorities had announced a two-week curfew starting from 25 March, during which the public transportation will be suspended to avoid the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus which causes the Covid-19 disease. Countries around the world are taking increased measures to stem the widespread of the Covid-19 disease.  EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

Egypt has shuttered several hospitals and quarantined villages in an attempt to halt the rising infection rate of new coronavirus in the most populous Arab state.

A Cairo hospital was closed for sterilisation late Saturday after two COVID-19 cases were confirmed.

Officials said one hospital was closed to be disinfected after one patient had tested positive and a member of staff was infected after.

Other hospitals have also been closed in the last week after recording cases of the virus, including the Alexandria University Hospital and Al-Shorouk hospital in Cairo.

Health ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed also announced that villages in up to 10 governorates have been quarantined.

"We have several infections from the same source... in what we call local transmission. Before it spreads to become a community transmission, we undertake this precautionary measure of quarantining the entire village... for 14 days," he said on a widely watched talk-show with popular host Lamees Al Hadidi on Saturday.

Egyptian doctors on social media have urged people to stay home to stem the rate of transmissions through social interactions.

The health ministry has reported 576 Covid-19 cases, including 36 deaths.

Egypt imposed a night-time curfew last week for two weeks in a bid to contain the growing contagion, which has caused over 30,000 deaths globally.

Penalties for violators include a fine of up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds (around $250) and even jail time. Flights have been grounded until 15 April.

Egyptian banks have also been instructed to apply temporary limits on daily withdrawals and deposits in a move seemingly designed to control inflation and hoarding as concern grows over the spread of the coronavirus.

The daily limit for individuals would be 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($635) and 50,000 pounds for companies, a central bank statement said, though businesses will be exempt from the withdrawal limits if the money is used to pay employees.

The central bank has also limited daily ATM withdrawals and deposits to 5,000 pounds, it said in a statement.